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Coleraine striker Allen out to extend derby blues

By Graham Luney

Curtis Allen knows Ballymena United's derby blues have to end sometime – he's just hoping it's not this weekend.

The fierce rivals meet in the last 16 of the Irish Cup at the Ballymena Showgrounds today – the undisputed tie of the round.

And, despite their shocking record against the Bannsiders, Glenn Ferguson's men will run out with renewed optimism because Coleraine have produced below-par performances in recent weeks.

A 5-0 drubbing dished out by league leaders Cliftonville on Tuesday night will have dented the confidence of Oran Kearney's men but, for some extraordinary reason, they seem to have the Indian sign over their neighbours.

You have to go back as far as October, 2009 for the last time United wiped the smiles off Coleraine faces.

That was a 3-2 home win – 11 games ago.

Kearney is out to maintain his unbeaten record over United as Coleraine boss but there will be a few butterflies in his stomach this weekend as the Bannsiders have only won one of their last seven fixtures.

Both sides are fighting for a cherished place in the top six before the league splits but that number one priority will be put to one side when Cup bragging rights are on the line.

Allen, who failed to make the Linfield Irish Cup Final squad on two occasions, has his own ghosts to exorcise but from a team perspective he feels the Cup showdown may have come at the right time for his side.

While fans are waiting to see if their side will cross the finishing line like Usain Bolt or an asthmatic ant carrying a rather large bag of shopping, Allen feels derby joy could transform the atmosphere in the Coleraine dressing room.

"I think our last really good efficient performance was on Boxing Day when we beat Ballymena United 2-0," said Allen.

"We haven't played particularly well since then so perhaps this game has come at the right time to shake us and get us back on track.

"No-one wants the season to fade away with nothing to play for. A Cup run injects confidence into the team and we need that at the moment.

"It was clear at Cliftonville that something wasn't right. I think we find it tough when we are a goal down, but in this league you need to be mentally strong and deal with that.

"Cliftonville have been able to do that and if their performance level keeps up they will win the league. They work hard for each other and have set the standard for other teams.

"This time last year we might have reacted better and enjoyed more luck. Of course the boys are hurting – no-one likes to lose 5-0 but you aren't allowed to feel sorry for yourself for long and this Cup game is a tough challenge.

"It's a massive game for everyone. We will have to raise our game, though, United's match was postponed during the week so they will have had more rest."

The 25-year-old, who still hopes to carve out a full-time career in the game, accepts United will be hungry to wipe out that shocking derby record.

"Since Oran (Kearney) has been the manager and I've been there things have gone our way," he added.

"We want to keep that record going but I can understand the United players thinking they want to do something about it. They won the County Antrim Shield this season and will want to get to another final.

"But we should remember our last performance against United and try to recover that form.

"The Irish Cup hasn't been too kind to me. I played in both semi-finals with Linfield but not the final! But the competition is special and we fell at the last hurdle last season. We know we are capable of beating anyone and this is the tie of the round so it's an opportunity to make a statement and get your name into the draw for the quarter-finals."

Allen added: "Although I would like to play across the water, I am committed to giving my all for Coleraine, playing well again and scoring goals. Then we will look at the situation in the summer."

He hopes to do that with an Irish Cup winner's medal around his neck.

Belfast Telegraph


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